Goo Goo Dolls

#493: SNDTRK

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK

GETTING MORE TALE #493: SNDTRK

The first big hit movie soundtrack LP in history was 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire.  That may seem like a long time ago, but it was only 26 years later (a small blink in terms of history) that John Williams composed one of the most popular scores of all time:  Star Wars.  That was the first soundtrack I owned.  Today, soundtracks are still an integral part of any record store.

In my own days as a Record Store Guy, movie soundtracks were a dicey product to stock.  Aside from some specific timeless examples, they seemed to have a limited shelf-life.

There was always a demand for certain classics:  Saturday Night Fever, Last of the Mohicans, Heavy Metal.  On the other hand, other discs were bargain bin perennials:  Titanic, More Music from Titanic, The Bodyguard, City of Angels, Phenomenon, Romeo + Juliet…my God there were so many.  Once a movie had run its course, often its soundtrack did too.

Classic.

Much of the time, people bought a soundtrack CD for one song.  Once that song was available elsewhere, the soundtrack sales usually dropped off completely.  When Goo Goo Dolls released “Iris” on their album Dizzy Up the Girl, nobody wanted the City of Angels soundtrack anymore.  Celine Dion put “My Heart Will Go On” on a bunch of different CDs, meaning almost everybody who bought Titanic on CD tried to sell it later.  Good luck – I’ve seen bargain bins with a dozen or more copies in it.  At one point we were so desperate to get rid of the soundtracks that we were bundling them up with the movie at a cut rate price.

There were certain soundtracks that were so unpopular that we weren’t even supposed to buy them used.  Operation Dumbo Drop comes to mind.  Now that was a CD that sat on my shelf for years and years.  When it finally sold, it was like a celebration. We had long “Do Not Buy – Ever!” lists.  I’m sure many of them were soundtracks.

There are always customers on the lookout for obscure soundtracks.  My buddy Rob Daniels, for example, has a radio show specialising in movie soundtracks.   He has an extensive library of soundtracks, carefully curated over the past 16 years or more.  Unfortunately for soundtrack fans, guys like Rob are in the minority.  Most people simply didn’t care.  They wanted the couple songs from the movie they liked and that was pretty much it.  People looking for obscure scores were few and far between.  Once a song is available on an artist’s album, the soundtrack can look forward to a long life in somebody’s bargain bin.


 

This week, we will be looking at different movie soundtracks every day!  I have a weird knack for remembering the first time I bought an album in great detail.  To lead into the first soundtrack review, I’ll set the scene.

The year was 1992.  I wasn’t working at the Record Store yet, but I was a customer.  The boss there used to have a saying (well he had many sayings but only one applies to this story):  “Do as I say, not as I do.”  He didn’t exactly set the best example on that one visit in ’92, which I liked to painfully rib him when I got hired on in July 1994.

I was looking for a specific soundtrack, a new release, and I wanted it on cassette.  Like the majority, I’m often buying a soundtrack only for a few songs.  I didn’t want to pay CD prices ($20 roughly) when the tape would be much cheaper.  So, I went to the local Record Store, the one at which I’d start working in two years, and looked.  They had to have it.  I made a special trip to the mall just to get that one tape.

When I walked in, the owner was chatting it up with some hot girl.  From the conversation it looked like they knew each other from highschool.  I looked for the tape, looked and looked, but couldn’t find it.  It wasn’t in the new releases and it wasn’t in the soundtracks.  But they had to have it!  I wanted to ask, but the owner and the girl were deep into whatever they were talking about.  I wanted to get his attention and ask about the tape, but I was a shy guy back then and didn’t want to interrupt.  I thought I could maybe jump into their conversation and say, “I went to that highschool too!  Include me!  Include me!”

I hovered nearby and waited for a break in their conversation to ask my question.  As I flipped tapes nearby, I thought I heard him ask if I needed help finding anything?  So I said the name of the soundtrack I was looking for.  He turned to me and said, “Pardon me?”  I answered, “Oh, sorry, I thought you were talking to me.  I’m looking for a soundtrack.”  He said, “Sorry, no I’m sold out of that one but I’ll have more in next week.”

I wanted it that day, so I skipped across the mall over to Zellers and bought the tape for $10.99.

“Do as I say!  Not as I do.”  Pay attention to customers!  When I told him that story a couple years later he didn’t believe me.   It’s true though; my friends will testify that 99% of the time I can tell them exactly when and where I first bought my albums.  Normally he was great at customer service, but that morning in ’92 was an epic fail!

Can you guess which soundtrack I was looking for?  Find out tomorrow.

Q

 

 

DVD REVIEW: Goo Goo Dolls – Live In Alaska (2002)

GOO GOO DOLLS – Live In Alaska (2002 Earth Escapes DVD)

I bought this for myself the week after I broke up with Radio Station Girl, looking for some new music to soothe my soul.  This DVD hit the spot for two reasons: the music and the scenery.  I like a lot of Goo Goo Dolls’ albums, and I really love the icy landscapes of the north.  Live In Alaska delivers on both.  From a series called “Music in High Places”, the DVD takes us all the way to Arctic Circle among the glaciers.  The band don’t play a traditional concert.  Instead they made videos in unusual locations, such as outdoors next to a partially frozen lake in the tundra.

That is the scene for “Black Balloon”.  There must have been some serious technical challenges to record there.  There are scenes of people arriving by small plane and air drops of equipment by helicopter, and then getting into position via rubber dinghy.   Wouldn’t it be hard acoustically to record songs in an open expanse?  I don’t know, but they did it and I like it.  The visuals add another element, and it surely must have been inspiring for the band to play in such a clean, isolated environment.

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Up next, the Dolls get to participate in the sport of dogsledding on Punchbowl glacier.  Lead singer Johnny Rzeznik says, “I have a really cool job. I get to do stuff like this,” and I’m jealous!  It’s warm enough for just short sleeves.  He is then taken by helicopter to an even more beautiful and remote location.  Standing on an ice island in the middle of a sparkling blue lake in the middle of Knik glacier, Rzeznik sings “Acoustic #3”, and it’s haunting.  It’s also a sight to behold.  The frigid water is bluer than anything you have seen before, not to mention this is one of his most beautiful songs.  You can hear the water gurgling faintly behind.

The band reconvenes in Hope, Alaksa at a tiny little bar to play the hit “Broadway” acoustically.  If the locals know who they are, they don’t let on, but one does play harmonica with them.  This is one of their best tunes, and I like the sound of it in this environment.  Only one thing pisses me off, and that’s interrupting the damn song to edit in some interview footage!   Bad editing.  I don’t know why some videos do this — splice interviews into the middle of the song.  Fucking stop it!  I hate that!  Fortunately, one of the DVD bonus features is something called “just the music”, where you can watch the song uninterrupted.

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Going mudsliding looks like a ton of fun.  The Dolls had a blast playing this game with kids, and getting absolutely covered in mud in the process.  (Rzeznik after cleaning: “It looked like a mud bomb went off in my bathroom.”)  Another cool concert location is on a train, where “Here Is Gone” is performed.  I must wonder if this was a technical nightmare to record.  The train appears to be moving extra slowly, perhaps to reduce noise.  I am sure this scene was meticulously planned.  The train was a special charter for the Dolls, and they could start and stop as they pleased.  The band are in a coach car with a glass dome roof.  The train enters a tunnel mid song, and things get dark, before it emerges in the light again at the end of the tune.  Really cool shot.

Flying to Kotzebue, Alaska the band are greeting by a cheering crowd.  The local news crews are out for this major event!  The next concert location is a bridge, where they play “Big Machine”.  This song isn’t as strong acoustically.  The album version with its electric riff is more interesting, but hey.  It’s the outdoors in Alaska in the summertime.  What more do you need?

Taking a break from performing for a moment, the band next get to enjoy some native culture and music.  But then it’s back to work, and they play “What A Scene” right there on a stoney ocean beach surrounded by the townsfolk.  10% of the population turned out for it!  This track works a bit better acoustically to my ears than “Big Machine” did.  Some of the kids in town are into it, some look bored, but soon it’s back to fun and games.  People are hurled into the air via a huge trampoline-like skin.  Robby Takac volunteers and gets pretty high up there!  But he only does it once!

The final song of the DVD is “Slide”, another huge favourite of mine. This is performed by the full band, on another chunk of ice in the middle of a lake.  You could not imagine a more perfect setting for such a bright, melodic song.  Once again I wonder about the technicalities of recording this performance but it sure looks and sounds 100% live.  Behind the scenes shots show giant boom mics and cameras on cranes.  Great tune to close on though, a highlight of this set and their career.

GOO GOO_0003The DVD has some very cool bonus features.  These include a terrible text bio that nobody will ever read.  The others include behind the scenes documentaries about Kotzebue and its inhabitants, and the Alaskan railroad.  Some of this material is included in the main feature, but it’s not really about the band.  It’s about the people and the scenery, but that’s cool in its own right. Interesting fact:  Even though the sun shines all night in Kotzebue in July, they still have fireworks on the 4th.  They’re not as cool, but they do have ’em!  They also have warm sunny swimming at 1 am, and the local radio station gets calls for requests all the way from Russia.

Not listed on the back of the package, but more important than the other features, are two bonus songs.  These can only be found if you happen to check out the “just the music” section.  “Sympathy” is the first, performed acoustically on the train.  Great tune.  “Do You Know” is the second, on the beach on Kotzebue.  This is Robby Takac’s only lead vocal (and it was cut from the main feature)!  This song reflects the Goo Goo Dolls punk rock side, from which they originated.  Robby’s vocal is raspy and ragged, just like I like it!

For Goo Goo Dolls fans, I can’t recommend this DVD enough.  The cool thing is that even if you’re just a casual fan who knows the hits, you’d dig it too.

4.5/5 stars

Part 192: Mix One

MIX ONE

RECORD STORE TALES Part 192:  Mix One

Blank discs are so cheap, and musical tastes so fleeting today, that I wonder if anybody but me still has the first mix CD they ever burned?

I’m hoping some of you have, and I’m hoping to hear it about from you too.  My first disc was made in early 2001 when we got our first burner.  It was made for a very specific purpose.

At the store, there was an informal rule that if you were closing one day and opening the next, it was “OK” to borrow a movie overnight, watch and return it.  So if that was true for movies, why not a CD?  Why not a dozen?  A few nights after having the CD burner installed, I borrowed a bag full of discs and burned this compilation on a Maxell CD-R 650.  74 minutes!  Up to 16x certified!

I returned the discs the next day, all albums that I wanted one or two songs from, but not the whole album.  Many were soundtracks and tribute albums.  I ended up buying The Strokes’ album a few weeks later, an ill-advised purchase that yielded only two or three listens.  I don’t have that one anymore.  But I still have my mix CD with “Last Nite”!

The Robbie Williams + Queen track is taken from the soundtrack to A Knight’s Tale.  I shall maintain the anonymity of the store employee who had the crush on Heath Ledger and inundated us with this soundtrack.  The same disc also yielded “I Want to Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone.

Track 3 is an industrial-rock hybrid tune called “Violent New Breed”.  I later purchased the Violent New Breed album by Shotgun Messiah.  Industrial rock fans will know that Messiah’s original bassist/singer was Tim Tim, aka Tim Sköld of KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, and his eponymous band.  I liked the title track enough to later buy the album and the prior one too.  Both were keepers.

I’ve been a Goo Goo Dolls fan for a while so I thought I would grab their INXS cover “Don’t Change” from an Ace Ventura soundtrack.  Their cover of “Bitch” came from the 1993 No Alternative compilation album.

Apparently I was on a Warrior Soul kick at that time as well.  Shame that there isn’t a great Warrior Soul compilation album that suits all my needs.  I bought and sold their studio albums.  As for Michael Jackson, I later decided to add a single disc compilation to my collection, offsetting my burning of “Billie Jean”.

This being a real odds n’ ends disc, it’s not a spellbinding listen today.  It’s fun to remind myself of some oddball tracks that I liked enough to burn but not enough to buy.  I’m also amused by the title Mix One, the first of many!  And I was even doing cover art back then, too.  On the cover is myself dressed up as the alien from Part 148: Navigate the Seas of the Sun!

2/5 stars!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

The return of the Dandy!

Part 172: The Goo Goo Dolls

RECORD STORE TALES Part 172:  The Goo Goo Dolls

Back in 1995, when the Goo Goo Dolls finally made the big time with “Name”, I sold an assload of those albums in my store.  People couldn’t get enough of them back then.  I personally had never even listened to it.  I mean, there were so many alt-rock bands in 1995 and ’96!  Better Than Ezra, Presidents of the United States of America, Matchbox 20…and I wasn’t interested in any of them.  I was a metal head.

As it turns out, (this is complicated, so bear with me) my uncle worked with the mother of the fiance of bassist Robby Takac.  So my aunt started asking me all these questions about this band, Goo Goo Dolls.  Do you know them?  Do you sell them in your store?  Etc.

I told my aunt, yes I know Goo Goo Dolls, and yes, I sell a ton of them in our store.  They were definitely one of our top sellers, for pretty much a year straight.  I mean they were huge at the time.

My aunt and uncle ended up being invited to the wedding, and Goo Goo Dolls played at the reception.  They had a great time, very much enjoyed herself, and met the band.  Not knowing that I had never listened to a Goo Goo Dolls song in my life, my aunt told Robby and the band that I was a big supporter and sold a whole bunch of their discs in my store for them.

To their credit, they were very thankful (if a tad misled), and FedEx’d my aunt a signed glossy in gratitude!

“Hi Michael,” it says, “Thanks a lot for your help!”  It was signed by Robby, lead singer Johnny Rzeznik, and new drummer Mike Malinin.

A tad bemused, I thought it might be a good idea to actually do them the service of listening to their music.  So I began to do that, in store, and found that I actually enjoyed the band quite a bit.  I like A Boy Named Goo, the album that I supposedly helped them out with, but I think Superstar Car Wash (the album previous) and Dizzy Up The Girl (the album that followed) are both superior.  I still like them today, leaning towards the early punk material, with a preference to their excellent deep cuts compilation, What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce.  

So there you go.  If it wasn’t for a slight misunderstanding, I might never have discovered the band!

Part 170: Jonathan

RECORD STORE TALES Part 170:  Jonathan

I’ve worked with a lot of accountants over the years.  I like accountants.  I seem to get along with accountants, don’t know why.  The coolest accountant I ever worked with was Jonathan.  I like to describe Jonathan’s appearance as being a dead ringer for the actor Romany Malco:

Jonathan always made me laugh.  Check out this journal entry:

Date: 2004/06/17
14:09

It was really amusing walking into the office today, and seeing Jonathan singing “Lick It Up” by Kiss.

Very un-accountant like behaviour!

Jonathan was good people.  He took a pay cut to work with us, because he wanted to do something he was passionate about.  He taught all us knuckle-draggers on the store floors about cash flow vs. profit.  He helped us out a lot on the financial side, and he was smart.  Plus he loved music.

One time when my mom came into the store to visit, I introduced her to Jon.  He said to my mom, “You brought up a good son, Mrs. Ladano.”

I used to drive Jonathan home from work once or twice a week, and it was always good to talk to him.  He used to give me advice every time.  He encouraged me to better myself.  He used to call me “Lifer”.  He said, “You’re never going to get out of here.  You’re going to work here forever.”  But he did it to rile me up, to get me looking for work elsewhere, because he knew the CD store was a dead end for me.  He had respect for me, when he called me “Lifer” he meant it to motivate me.

I’d talk to him about girls I liked.  There was this girl that worked at the Money Mart next door, but I was too shy to walk in and talk to her.  So Jonathan did it for me!  Witness these journal entries:

Date: 2004/05/21,  10:08

The one girl at the Money Mart next door is really cute, and I see her out there all the time having a smoke. When Jonathan goes out to have a smoke, he talks to her, give her a light, whatever.  I mentioned to Jonathan that I thought the one girl was real cute yesterday.  Then today, I TOTALLY got busted staring at her through the window!  THEN Jonathan went out to chat it up with her, right after I got busted, to tell her all about me, ask her if she wants to go out on a date with me…Jesus Christ!

Date: 2004/05/22,  09:52

  • Cheap Trick – Authorized Greatest Hits
  • Alice In Chains – Jar of Flies
  • KISS tribute – Kiss My Ass
  • The Goo Goo Dolls – Gutterflower
  • Rush – Vapor Trails

Nice thing about working the day alone with no bosses around is that you can listen to whatever the hell you want!

I don’t think Money Mart Girl, who I learned from Jonathan is named Jessica, is working today. So I couldn’t say hi to her even if I worked up the guts!

In the end, Jonathan had to split.  He had three kids and being an accountant for a CD store wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  He took an offer he could not refuse, and bid us farewell.

I’ll always remember good times working with Jonathan, a true character, and the guy who got me thinking about my future.